Anxiety and depression are significant challenges for many people in our culture. Most of us know someone who has had a difficult struggle with either of these twin plagues facing our fast-paced, information-saturated, pressure-packed society.
The orientation of anxiety and depression are different. Depression is often rooted in what did or didn’t happen in the past; while anxiety is a fearful anticipation of the future. Things are coming at us so fast that we are often unable to process the events of our lives and they remain ‘unresolved.’ We also have a series of unrealistic expectations and responsibilities that leave us unprepared for what’s coming next—and this creates anxiety about the future.
How do we recognize the symptoms and develop strategies that will help us reduce anxiety? Eliminating anxiety all together is probably an unrealistic expectation. To be human is to step into a rather uncertain future and this creates its own discomfort. We want to reduce anxiety’s impact so that it doesn’t dominate our life and rob us of joy and peace.
Symptoms that a person may be struggling with anxiety:
Constant worrying about ‘what could happen.’
Difficulty concentrating in the present moment (mental energy diverted to future situations, robs us of mental capacity now).
Decision-making becomes challenging and once a decision has been made, they may question whether the right choice was made.
Worrying about “being worried” and how others may perceive them.
Physical symptoms can include fatigue, headaches, muscle-aches, sweating, shortness of breath and irritable bowel syndrome.
Scripture teaches that anxiety is real and that we should actively pursue help. Here are a few passages of Scripture that come with their own helpful principles for those of us who struggle with anxiety:
Put yourself in a helpful relational circle, where the voices that come to you are understanding and encouraging. Cultivate a healthy sense of humour, that can help you find the lighter side of situations. “Anxiety in a person’s heart weighs them down, but a good word makes them glad” (Proverbs 12:25).
Faith Based Visualization
Practice the discipline of daily giving to Jesus that which is far too heavy for you to carry on your own. The practice of visualization can be enormously helpful. Find a quiet place and in your mind’s eye, wrap up the ‘fear’ and ‘worry’ and put it in Jesus’ hands. This will help us practice the invitation to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
The power and proximity of prayer is enormous! God is a conversation away. Jesus teaches us to pray the “Our Father” which includes ‘give us today, our daily bread.” In other words, ‘give us what we need today’ … and then we set out to trust him with whatever comes our way believing that he is actively taking care of us. The Apostle Paul knew what it was like to struggle with anxiety and he helps us with these important words - “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6-7).
For some people, the next right thing to do is to seek out help from the medical community. This can include your medical doctor where helpful medications may be of assistance. For others, it may include seeing a Christian counselor who can help us with strategies to help manage our thoughts and behavior.
The good news is anxiety doesn’t have to get the last word in our life! There is a greater level of joy and peace to be experienced with every step of forward progress. There is no shame in being a person of faith who struggles with anxiety!